FREE Returns & FREE Shipping Available - See Details

What is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

A shotgun start in golf refers to a format used in tournaments where all players start at the same time from different holes on the golf course. This is often used in a charity golf tournament or other golf events to accommodate the large number of players. The organizer assigns each player to a specific holegolfers all begin their round by firing a shotgun. This format allows for a faster pace of play and is commonly used for scramble tournaments. It also makes it easier to manage a large number of players and ensures that everyone finishes at around the same time.

In a shotgun tournament, the first group of golfers starts at the same time as the last group. In a reverse shotgun start, the last group starts at the same time as the first group, typically on the 10th hole. Some events even use a double shotgun format, with two start times for the players. This format has been around since 1956 and is commonly used in PGA Tour events and charity golf fundraisers.

It allows for a more efficient use of the golf course and provides an exciting and social atmosphere for golfers to enjoy their tee time with others. It also enables a large number of golfers to compete for a prize and support a good cause at the same time.

How A Shotgun Start Tournament Works

A shotgun start tournament is an event where many players begin play at the same time, typically on the 18 holes of a golf course. To start the tournament, the golf course will use a shotgun to signal the start of play. Each player or group of players will start at a different hole, and when the shotgun sounds, they will begin their round.

As players progress through the course, they record their scores for each hole on their scorecards. After completing all 18 holes, the players return to the clubhouse to turn in their scorecards, and the player with the lowest score wins. It is important for players to putt carefully, as the par for each hole will vary, and a low score is essential to winning the tournament.

For example, in a shotgun start tournament at the Walla Walla Golf Club, there may be 18 groups of four players each, with a total of 72 participants. Players may have the opportunity to warm up at the driving range before the tournament begins.

History of Shotgun Start

Like much golf terminology, the “shotgun start” concept originated in Scotland, where the game itself was born centuries ago. The first known use came at St. Andrews Links way back in 1744. The Captain’s Golfing Society came up with the idea to allow all members to complete their rounds before darkness fell.

This efficient innovation soon spread across the Atlantic Ocean and caught on in America in the early 20th century. It was a perfect fit for the fast pace of life in the U.S. By the 1960s shotgun starts were commonplace, especially for amateur events looking to maximize fun.

Now the shotgun start lives on as a golf tradition uniquely flavored by the Scottish origin of hustling groups out in a single blast. Young or old, pro or amateur, all golfers enjoy the competitive levity of a simultaneously commenced tournament round. Any golf event planner facing weather worries or strict time limits come away relieved by the flexibility of a shotgun start as well.

Explaining the Shotgun Start

The term shotgun start comes from the imagery of a shotgun firing a spray of shots, sending the golfers dispersing to their starting holes all at once. In a typical shotgun start for an 18-hole course, one foursome begins play on hole 1, another on hole 2, another on 3, and so forth. Generally the holes are assigned by random draw or by a tournament committee.

Once the opening shotgun start blast sends the field scattering, the expectation is that no large bottlenecks or delays will occur as in tee time starts. The course can fill to its capacity quickly and efficiently. This helps maximize the number of golfers participating in a single event.

Advantages to Using a Shotgun Start

One of the advantages to using a shotgun start in a golf tournament is that it allows all players in the tournament to start at the same time, which can help to level the playing field. Several advantages make shotgun starts an intriguing choice for many golf tournaments and outings:

Pace of Play

Since the entire field is spread out immediately at the beginning, there is much less chance groups will back up and cause delays over the course of the round. The course’s capacity can be utilized to the fullest.


The shotgun start enables nearly everyone to finish in roughly the same timeframe. Golfers can gather together afterward and find out results in a collective fashion. This ramps up excitement and camaraderie.

Weather Issues

If there is concern about thunderstorms or other weather arriving later in the day, a shotgun start allows everyone to tee off earlier and maximize the chance of finishing 18 holes before the weather hits.

Outings and Events

The shotgun start facilitates golf events focused on building relationships, as all golfers finish together and can enjoy food, drinks, awards, etc. in a communal atmosphere.

How Courses Handle Shotgun Starts

When it comes to handling shotgun starts, courses have to carefully manage the logistics to ensure a smooth and fair experience for all players. The double shotgun start format is a popular way to get the entire field out on the course quickly, with half the players starting on different holes simultaneously.

By utilizing a tee sheet, courses can strategically plan the start times for each group, taking into account factors such as handicap and the format of play, whether it be stableford or stroke play. This method was put into practice at the recent Centurion Club tournament. Where the final two rounds were played with a double shotgun start. This allowed the field to complete the round in several hours, with the last group teeing off at the 11th hole.

Russell fired a fantastic morning tee shot on the 18th hole securing his place in the playoff. Regular customers at the course were pleased with the efficient handling of the shotgun start and the placement of the pin throughout the day.

Challenges of Shotgun Starts

One of the challenges of shotgun starts in golf tournaments is ensuring that all players are ready to tee off at the designated time. According to the December 2004 issue of Golf magazine, a shotgun start is when the tournament organizer assigns a specific time for all players to begin their round simultaneously.

This can be difficult to coordinate, especially when there are many golfers participating in the event. Of course, some challenges and disadvantages do exist with shotgun starts in golf:


They require more coordination by the golf staff to prepare appropriate hole assignments, cart staging, etc. Golfers also need clear instructions about the shotgun process.

Pace Challenges

If some groups fall behind, they can still struggle to keep pace and finish in time. Marshals may be required to enforce pacing.

Less Flexibility

It is more complex to accommodate late registrations or substitutions with a shotgun start compared to tee times. Additional staff may also be needed.


Why is it called a shotgun start in golf?

The “shotgun start” term refers to the imagery of a shotgun firing a spray of shots, sending all the golfers dispersing from the various tee boxes simultaneously to start their round. Like a shotgun blast scattering birdshot.

How many golfers can play by a shotgun start?

The number of golfers who can play in a shotgun start tournament depends on the capacity of the golf course, but typically ranges from 72 to 144 players at most 18-hole facilities. With a group starting on each hole, a full shotgun field maximizes the course capacity.

What are shotgun rules in golf?

Some common shotgun start rules include requiring all players to: start on their assigned hole, keep pace with the group ahead, finish out every hole (no dropping out), and remain until the end for final results and awards. Courses may also forbid shotguns drivers or restrict shotgun riders based on insurance rul8es.

In Closing

While shotgun starts are less common than tee time starts, they add a distinct sense of excitement, camaraderie, and time management to a golf tournament. The images drawn up by the term itself a shotgun peppering the course landscape to encourage a quick, orderly dispersal properly capture what makes the simultaneously starting shotgun round such an enduring tradition.

Understanding The Golf Game:

Leave a Comment